GTPulse: Kennedy Kibbey, Kingsley High School Class of 2020

Kennedy Kibbey is no stranger to spending a lot of time at home. The Kingsley High School graduating senior has had a physical and emotional rollercoaster of an experience.

Her sophomore year, Kennedy and her sister got into a car accident that caused Kennedy a traumatic brain injury.

“I was going through a little tough time before the accident. But, I was a good student. I always had good grades. I never missed too much school, I always did cross country. ”

A well-liked social butterfly at school, the drastic lifestyle change that came with the injury was a challenge all of its own.

“I had a bunch of friends. Football games. After my accident, I missed seven weeks of school. The whole second semester. I stopped talking to a lot of people because I didn’t go to school.”

Kennedy was a top cross country runner at school and having to miss out on participating was devastating. 

“Top runner. Varsity. Everything like that.”

Her world quickly went from cafeteria lunches with friends to various physical and emotional therapies with doctors. But, they were needed. She didn’t remember dating an ex-boyfriend after the accident and forgot that her aunt was pregnant. The feelings and frustration that came with them were overwhelming at times. She found that she had good days where she felt positive and hopeful, but also bad days where it would all feel like too much.

“Mentally, I get frustrated really easily because of my TBI. I was really scared to get in the car for a long time.”

She went back to school for her junior and senior years and her mindset had shifted to progress over perfection.

“It was very hard to do. It was more like, I just need to graduate. I just need to walk the stage and pass my classes just to walk. It changed from, I want that 3.0 GPA, four-year college scholarship, running in college to…I have no idea how I’m even going to pass this high school class.”

She doesn’t have anything to worry about anymore. Kennedy has passed all of her classes and will graduate with the class of 2020.

“My class at my school has already had it so rough. We’ve lost a classmate. Right after my accident, actually. We’ve had different principals, different teachers. Nothing has ever really been normal for our class.”

And their graduation will be no different. Class of 2020 everywhere will have either some sort of nontraditional graduation ceremony or none. And like Kennedy said, her particular class has been through a lot. Being at the finish line like this feels extra bittersweet for them.

“It’s stressful not to get the one moment that everybody else got. I have six siblings, four of them have already done it. I was the fifth one ready to go. I’ve seen them walk, I’ve seen them do it all.”

Kennedy’s graduation will look different than her siblings but she’s not wallowing. She has stayed busy in quarantine at the family restaurant, J&S Hamburg in Traverse City where she’s been helping with to-go orders for customers and healthcare workers. When she’s not there, she’s home. Something reminiscent of when she was recovering.

“I think learning from all of that stuff made it easier to handle this. I’ve done it once, let’s do it again.”

I’m inspired by Kennedy’s grace and resiliency. It’s representative of not only her own personal strength but of her graduating class too. I think it’s easy to get caught up ruminating on what the cloudy future looks like, and the things that aren’t happy or good right now. But, when you see it through the perspective of someone who has already endured a difficult time in their life, it starts to feel different. It starts to feel like we’ll get through it.

“I’m taking a gap year to travel. I’m way happier now with the decision I’ve made then I think I would have been trying to figure out colleges right now. My mental health, my mentality, how I view the world…this is my second chance at life.”

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Categories: GTPulse